Layers Pane

The Layers pane lists all layers in a window and provides basic controls.  The Layers pane is the primary user interface when maps have many layers, and for setting layer characteristics, like layer opacity, even when maps have few layers.  

 

We can switch to the Layers pane by clicking its tab if it is open, by choosing Layers in the View - Panes menu, or by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+3.

 

The Layers pane provides so many capabilities that several topics are required.   See also:

 

Folders in the Layers Pane

 

Layers Pane and Tables

 

Layers Pane and Layouts

 

The Layers pane allows us to alter the order of layers in the display stack, turn layers on and off, and group layers together in folders that allow one-click on/off of many layers at once.    We can also change layer opacity, and specify the background color of a window.   We can also set the Pick mode,  whether objects in the layer can be picked with an Alt-click to show attributes or to edit the object, and we can set the Snap mode, whether objects in the layer can be snapped to when editing drawings.   

 

The Layers pane works for drawing, image and map windows, and it also controls the order and appearance of frames in layouts and columns in tables.  

 

 

In the illustration above all of the layers are on except the Bing satellite and street map layers, which are off.   The Background layer is a virtual "layer" present in all visual display windows.  It provides a layer of background color, in the illustration set to a dark gray, as seen in the sample color box.  Double-click into the color box to change the color.   When using image server layers like Bing or Canvas, which completely fill their layers with pixels, the background color will not be visible if the image server layers are at 100% opacity.

 

By default, the Layers pane appears with the Project pane in a tab strip to the left of the Manifold desktop.

 

 

 

When panes are docked, if the Project pane is in the foreground, click on the Layers pane tab to bring the Layers pane forward.     If we have switched to a different pane, we can switch to the Layers pane by clicking the pane's tab, or by choosing it in the View - Panes menu.  A keyboard shortcut of Ctrl+3 switches to the Layers pane.

 

Shift-click the pane's name tab to undock the pane.   Shift-click the title bar to dock it again, or right-click the title bar and choose Dock.  An undocked pane can be resized and moved anywhere on our Windows desktop.   Close a docked pane by choosing its tab and then pressing the X button to close.  Close an undocked pane by right-clicking the title bar and choosing Close.

 

 Illustrations in this topic may be reduced in size to allow more compact documentation display.   Undocked panes can be resized to be larger or smaller, but not as small as the smallest illustrations that may appear.

Controls

The Layers pane shares many of the same controls as a table.  For example, the keyboard arrow keys move the current cell, indicated by a dotted outline, up and down, left and right.    Layers can be selected just like rows in tables can be selected.

 

For a step-by-step illustrated tutorial to the Layers pane, see the Example: Layers Tutorial topic.

 

 

Some controls in the toolbar are enabled when one or more layers have been selected by Ctrl-clicking a layer.    

 

 

Toolbar command buttons are not enabled if there is only one layer, and they are not enabled when only the Background is selected.  The Delete button is not enabled for the Background and it is not enabled when one layer remains in a drawing, image or labels window.

 

The Layers pane shares the same table-style, "grid" user interface used throughout Manifold where items are presented in rows and columns.  The subject of commands and actions is designated by:

 

 

 

Ctrl-click on a layer or folder to select it or deselect it.  

 

 New Folder

Create a new folder using the New Folder dialog, which allows naming the new folder.   Add layers to the new folder by selecting them and using the Move to Folder button.

 

Keyboard shortcut: Insert

 Move to Folder

Move all selected layers into the folder chosen from the drop down list.   The drop down list also provides a Move to Root choice that moves selected layers out of all folders, that is, to the root of the list.

    Move up

Move all selected items up in the list.

 Move down

Move all selected items down in the list.

 Move to Top

Move all selected items to the top of the list, retaining their relative orders at the top of the stack.

 Move to Bottom

Move all selected items to the bottom of the list, retaining their relative orders at the bottom of the stack.

 Delete

Delete selected items from the window. We cannot delete the Background from a window.  Does not appear for table windows.

 

This does not delete the components from the project: it only removes them as layers from the window.  

 

If a map has one layer we can delete that to leave a blank map.  However, with only one layer in a drawing, image or labels window we cannot delete the defining layer from its own window.   

 

To delete a folder without deleting the layers it contains, empty the folder by selecting all layers in the folder and then using the Move to Folder button to move layers to the root, that is, out of the folder.  We can then select the folder (do not forget to deselect the layers that were moved out) and delete it.

Filter Box

Enter text to be matched, case not significant.   The list of layers and folders will be reduced to show only those which match the text.    For example, entering ro will reduce the list to layers such as roads, railroads, and crops, all of which have the two letter sequence ro in their names, but will not include layers like buildings or places.   Applies to both layers and folders.  

 

If the filter shows a layer within a folder that does not match the filter, the folder will appear anyway.  For example entering ro will show both a roads layer that matches the filter, and also a Transportation folder that does not match the filter, if the roads layer is in that Transportation folder.

 Filter / Configure

Filter by type of component, for example, to show only drawings, or only images, or only labels in maps, or to show only non-computed fields or only computed fields with tables.  

 

Also configures the control column to show controls.  With maps, choices are:

  • Opacity  - Set the layer's opacity in %.

  • Pick Mode - Allowing objects/pixels in the layer to be picked.

  • Snap Mode - Allowing objects in the layer to guide snaps or not.

 

With tables, choices are:

  • Type - Show the data type of each field.

  • Width - Show width of fields in points.

Expanded / collapsed icons appear next to a folder.  Click + to expand a collapsed folder.  Click - to collapse an expanded folder.

 

Switching between windows preserves the expanded/collapsed status of folders for each window.  Moving commands automatically expand folders that contain selected layers, to make the effect of commands visible.  

 

Keyboard shortcuts when the cursor is on a folder:  + key or the right arrow to expand, and the - key or the left arrow to collapse.

Double-click the opacity % setting to change the opacity of a layer in percent. No need to enter the % character when changing opacity.  Applies to all selected layers.

Click  the on/off box to toggle the layer off and on.   Any changes to a selected layer's box will apply to all selected layers.  Filled box = Layer displayed.  Empty box = Layer hidden.  

 

Click a folder's on/off box to turn the folder off and on, including everything within the folder.  When a folder is turned off, and then back on, the on/off status of all items within the folder will be preserved when it is turned back on.

 

A faint gray box appears for items that are hidden because the folder they are in is off, but which again will be displayed when the folder is turned on.

 

When a layer is turned off, objects in it cannot be edited, picked or selected.  That makes sense, since the layer and what it contains are hidden.

spacebar

Toggles the current layer on/off.   Same as clicking the on/off box.

Color well showing the background color.  Double-click the Background row or the color well to change the background color.

Click

Click a layer in the layers list to make it the context item in the list.  This does not make that layer active in the corresponding map, layout, or table (use Alt-click for that).  It simply moves the cursor to that row.  This is mainly used to mark the spot above which a folder will be created when adding folders to the layers pane.

Alt-click

Alt-click a visible layer to pick it, putting the list cursor on that layer.  Alt-clicking a layer in the Layers pane will make it the active layer in a map, the active frame in a layout, and the active column in a table, scrolling it into view.  

 

This is a great way to bring a column into view in tables that have very many fields, or to bring a layer tab into view and make it active in a map that has very many layers.   When layers are within a folder, and thus packaged within the same tab in a map, Alt-clicking a layer in the folder will make that folder the active layer and will switch the layer tab to using that layer.

Right-click

Right-click a layer row for a context menu:

 

  • Active - Make the layer the active layer.
  • Center - Center the display at current zoom on the contents of the layer.
  • Zoom - Zoom to fit the contents of the layer.
  • Zoom to Selection - Zoom to fit all selected objects in the layer.
  • Best Fit - Resize the column width to best fit contents in the column.
  • Best Fit Title - Resize the column width to best fit the name of the column.

 

Center, Zoom, and Best Fit choices operate for all selected layer rows.

Ctrl-click

Ctrl-click onto a layer to select or to de-select that layer.

 

Ctrl-clicking a folder will select or de-select all sub-folders and layers within that folder.

Context Menus

Right-clicking the title tab of a docked Layers pane, or the title bar of the Layers pane pops open a menu for docking, undocking, and to close the pane.

 

Right-click a layer row in the layers pane for a context menu.   

 

The context menu will present different choices for maps, tables and layouts, as seen above.

 

Active

Make the layer the active layer.   Choosing Active has the same effect as Alt-clicking that layer:  that makes it the active layer in a map, the active frame in a layout, and the active column in a table, scrolling it into view.    

 

As with Alt-click, the layer must be visible (turned on for display) to make it active with a right-click.  If the layer is already active, the Active choice will indicate that with a dot icon.

Center

Center the display at current zoom on the contents of the layer.

Zoom

 Zoom to fit the contents of the layer.

Zoom to Selection

 Zoom to fit all selected objects in the layer.  Disabled if there is no selection in the layer.

Best Fit

Resize the column width to best fit contents in the column, scanning field values that occur in the column to estimate a bet fit.  Appears in the layers pane for tables.  Using Best Fit on binary fields does not scan field values for the contents and instead uses a width that is wide enough to fit most reasonable values of the relevant binary type.

 

Best Fit all columns:

 

  1. Ctrl-A to select all columns.
  2. Right-click one of the selected columns and choose Best Fit.

 

Best Fit Title

Resize the column width to best fit the name of the column as well as the contents of the column.  Appears in the layers pane for tables.   If the contents are wider than then name of the column then the column will be made wider to accommodate the contents.   If the contents are narrower than the name of the column, the column width will be set based on the name.

 

Best Fit Title for all columns:

 

  1. Ctrl-A to select all columns.
  2. Right-click one of the selected columns and choose Best Fit Title.

 

Context Menus Apply to All Selected Layers

If the layer that was right-clicked is selected, the Center, Zoom... and Best Fit... commands will operate using all selected layers.   If the layer that was right-clicked was not selected, the command will operate only using that layer.

Example

A frequent use for selection in the Layers pane is to apply Best Fit and Best Fit Title to all columns in a table.

 

 

Consider a table as seen above, for a drawing of roads extracted from OpenStreetMap.   The Layers pane is shown below.     

 

 

Note how some columns, such as mfd_id and fclass, are much wider than necessary either to show the name of the column or the contents of the column.   Other columns, such as name, are more than wide enough for the name of the column but too narrow for the contents.   We can fix that by using Best Fit Title.

 

We first will apply the context menu command to only one column, to see what happens, and then we will select all columns and apply the same command, to show how selection extends the action of the command to all selected columns.

 

 

We right-click the fclass row in the Layers pane, and then in the context menu that pops open we choose Best Fit Title.

 

 

Immediately, the fclass column is narrowed to provide a good fit for the contents.   

 

Best Fit Title considers both the width of the name of the column as well as the width that would accommodate contents, including contents not in sight.  In this case, it made the column wider than necessary for fclass contents in sight, in order to make it wide enough to fit contents that appear in the fclass field for records not in sight.

 

 

Next, we will select all rows in the Layers pane by clicking into the Layers pane to move the focus there, and then pressing Ctrl-A to select all.  

 

 

We right-click any of the selected rows, that is, any row in this case, and then in the context menu that pops open we choose Best Fit Title.

 

 

Immediately, the Best Fit Title command is applied to all columns in the table.    Columns that have shorter field values in their contents than the names of the column, such as mfd_id, and oneway, have been resized to a width big enough to fit the column name.   Columns that have shorter column names than the contents of the column, such as fclass and name, have been resized to a width big enough to fit the contents.

 

Let us consider an example using layers in a map.

 

 

In the map seen above, two of the places layer points are selected, with their icons shown in red selection color.    In the buildings layer, four of the building areas are selected, with their areas shown in red selection color.

 

We first will apply the Zoom to Selection context menu command to only the buildings layer, to see what happens, and then we will select all layers and apply the same command, to show how selection extends the action of the command to all selected layers.

 

 

We right-click the buildings row in the Layers pane, and then in the context menu that pops open we choose Zoom to Selection.

 

 

Immediately, the map window zooms to fit all selected objects in the buildings layer.

 

Next, we will select all rows in the Layers pane by clicking into the Layers pane to move the focus there, and then pressing Ctrl-A to select all.  

 

 

We right-click any of the selected rows, that is, any row in this case, and then in the context menu that pops open we choose Zoom to Selection.

 

 

Immediately, the map window zooms to fit all selected objects in both the places layer and the buildings layer.   If any objects were selected in any other layers, the Zoom operation would consider them as well, even if the layer containing them was not visible.

Controls Apply to All Selected Layers

Controls such as opacity, the layer on/off boxes or various Move Up or Move Down controls apply to all selected layers or folders.   

 

This allows us to apply the same settings or action to many layers or folders at once.   Selecting more than one layer or folder is a convenient way of moving more than one layer up or down, simultaneously changing the opacity of multiple layers at once and so on.

 

Move buttons will move all selected items, layers and folders, together.   Selected items need not be next to each other in the stack to be moved in the same relative direction up or down.   Commands will have no action on layers for which they are impossible.  For example, if several layers are selected and one of them is the lowest layer in the stack then that last layer will not move on a Move down command while the rest the selected layers will move down one step.

 

Folders are persistent in components where layers are persistent.  For example, if we move layers into folders in a map, or fields in a table, or frames in a layout, and we then close and reopen the component, or if we save, close, and then reopen the project, those folders will still be in place.    In contrast, for components like drawings or images where layers are temporary and go away when the window is closed, any folders that are specified in the Layers pane will go away, along with the layers, when the drawing or image window is closed.   To save folders in layers for drawing or image windows, use Edit - Save as Map to save the drawing or image window as a map.

Filter / Configure Button

The Filter / Configure button configures the display within the Layers pane.   It filters what type of layers are shown, and it configures the control column to show controls for opacity, pick mode or snap mode.

 

Press the Filter / Configure button for a menu of choices.

 

 

Choosing Drawings will filter the Layers pane to only showing layers that are drawings.

 

 

Choosing All will restore display of all layer types.  

Showing Opacity, Pick Mode and Snap Mode

Press the Filter / Configure button to configure the control column to display Opacity, Pick Mode, or Snap Mode.   Setting Opacity, Pick Mode, or Snap Mode for a layer in a map applies only to how that layer participates in that particular map, or any copies we make of that map.   If we disable picks for a layer in a map, that does not change Pick Mode for that layer in some other map.

 

 

By default, the Layers pane shows opacity controls.    We can change that by pressing the Filter / Configure button.

Pick Mode

Choosing Show Pick Mode will switch the control column to showing the Pick mode status of each layer.  A pick mode of pick means that objects in that layer may be picked for use in the Info pane with an Alt-click or a Shift-Alt-click.  

 

 

Double-click a pick mode cell to change pick mode for that layer.

 

 

Choose no pick to change the pick mode of a layer to not allowing picks of objects in that layer.   A no pick mode is indicated with a blank pick mode cell.  

Snap Mode

Press the Filter / Configure button to switch the control column to displaying Snap Mode.

 

 

Choosing Show Snap Mode will switch the control column to showing the Snap mode status of each layer.  A snap mode of snap means that objects in that layer may be used to guide snapping when editing drawings or when using the Tracker tool.  

 

 

We can double-click a snap mode cell to change snap mode.   If we want to change many layers at once, we Ctrl-click layers to select them, and then we double-click the snap mode cell in any of the selected layers.

 

 

Choose no snap to turn off snapping.   Changing a snap mode in any selected layer will change snap mode for all selected layers.   A no snap mode is indicated with a blank snap mode cell.  

 

 

Deselect all layers with a Shift-Ctrl-A keyboard shortcut, or with a quick Ctrl-A, Ctrl-I sequence, which some people find easier to keyboard.

Width or Type in Table Fields

When showing "layers," that is fields, in a table, the Layers pane can show the width of the field's column in points or the data type of the field.

 

 

With tables, the Layers pane shows the width of field columns by default.   We can switch to showing data types for fields by choosing  Show Type.  

 

 

We can also use the Filter / Configure button to filter display to only fields that are not computed, or to only computed fields.

Layers Pane with a Map

 

In addition to the layers tab strip at the bottom of a map window the Layers pane is our primary interface to see what is in the window and to manage layers.    The list shows the display order of layers in the window, with higher layers in the list rendered above lower layers in the list.  A "virtual layer" called the Background appears at the bottom of the list to allow us to control the background color of the window and to turn background color off and on.

 

 

Click on the on/off box to turn a layer off and on, and double-click the % value to change the opacity of a layer.  For example, the buildings layer in the illustration above has an opacity of 50%.  We can easily move one or more layers up and down the list, delete them from the map and combine them within folders for easy management as a group.

 

The illustration above shows only a few layers, but when there are dozens of layers in a map the Layers pane is the only way to manipulate layer ordering, to group layers into folders, and to quickly turn layers off and on.

Background Color

The Layers pane shows a check box to turn the Background color on and off.  The Background is not a real layer in that it does not correspond to any drawing, image or labels layer in the context window.

 

 

The Background shows what color to put underneath all other layers.  By default, background color is white.  We can change it by double-clicking into the color well and we can turn it on or off for display like the other layers.   Changing the background color to a color other than white allows us easily to see if any white space in the window is part of the background or not.   See the Example: Layers Tutorial topic.  

Layers Pane with a Layout

 

With layouts the Layers pane controls the vertical order of frames in the display stack, their transparency and whether they are on or off for display.  We can also select frames by selecting them in the Layers pane.

Layers Pane with a Table

 

With tables, the Labels pane controls the horizontal placement of columns in the table, their width or data type, and whether they are on or off for display.

 

 

 Click the filter/configure button to switch between showing the width of field columns or their data types.

Keyboard Controls

Experienced users working with many layers report it is often quicker to use the keyboard to toggle layers on/off, to select layers, and to move selected layers up and down.  The current layer is the one with the cursor (dotted outline) around it.

 

Ctrl-A, Ctrl-I

Ctrl-A is Select All, to select all layers.  Ctrl-I is Select Inverse, to invert the selection.  A quick way to de-select all layers is to do a quick Ctrl-A followed by a Ctrl-I

Shift-Ctrl-A

Shift-Ctrl-A deselects all layers.   Whether this is easier/quicker than doing a quick Ctrl-A followed by a Ctrl-I is a matter of individual taste and keyboarding habits.

spacebar

Toggles the current layer on/off.   Same as clicking the on/off box.  No effect on folders.

Ctrl-spacebar

Select / Deselect current layer or folder.  Same as Ctrl-clicking the layer or folder.

Ctrl-Up Arrow

Ctrl-Down Arrow

Move selected layers or folders up or down in the stack.

Enter

Begin editing opacity in current cell.

Up, Down Arrow Keys

Move current cell cursor up or down.

Right Arrow

Expand a closed folder.

 

+

The + key expands a closed folder.

Left Arrow

Collapse an open folder.

-

The - key collapses an open folder.

Home

Move current cell cursor all the way to the left (layer names).

End

Move current cell cursor all the way to the right (on/off box).

Ctrl-Home

Move current cell cursor to the top layer.

Ctrl-End

Move current cell cursor to the bottom layer (Background).

Page Up

Page Down

Move current cell cursor up or down one page's worth.

Scroll bar

A vertical scroll bar appears when there are more layers than can fit into the display.   Scrolling the display does not move the current cell cursor.

Scroll bar clicks

Clicks in the scroll bar region:

 

  • Click and drag onto scroll bar handle - scroll the display.

  • Click above or below scroll bar handle - Same as Page Up or Page Down.

  • Shift-Click above or below scroll bar handle - Jump to that position.

Scroll bar context menu

Right-clicking onto the scroll bar calls up a context menu:

 

  • Scroll Here - Drag the scroll bar handle to the spot right-clicked and scroll the display accordingly.

  • Top - Scroll the display to the top.

  • Bottom - Scroll the display to the bottom.

  • Page Up - Scroll the display up one page.

  • Page Down - Scroll the display down one page.

  • Scroll Up - Scroll the display up one row.

  • Scroll Down - Scroll the display down one row.

 

Example: Turn Many Layers On or Off

When there are many layers in a window it can be much quicker to turn layers off and on by using the Layers pane instead of double-clicking tabs in the tab strip of a window.   Clever use of folders as well as selection with Ctrl-A to Select All and Ctrl-I to Select Inverse can greatly reduce the number of clicks.    

 

Suppose we start with a mix of many layers, some of which are on and some of which are off:

 

 

We want to turn on all layers except four layers.    We Ctrl-click the four layers we want off to select them.   In the illustration above, we have just Ctrl-clicked the last of the four layers to select it.

 

  

 

Next, we click the on/off button for one of the selected layers to turn that layer off.   All four of the selected layers will also turn off.  

 

We then press Ctrl-I, or choose Edit - Select Inverse in the main menu, to invert the selection.

 

  

 

Next, we click the on/off button for one of the selected layers to turn that layer on.   All of the selected layers will also turn on.  Done.

Filter Box

The filter box will hide layers that do not include the given text in their names.  The filter box is a great way of finding layers or fields when there are hundreds of layers or fields in the Layers pane.  The filter box is an essential tool for reducing long lists of layers or fields to only those items of interest,

 

When the filter box has hidden some layers, that has an effect on other commands as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

Consider an example, using the Layers pane with a map that has multiple layers that are organized into two folders:

 

 

At left above we see the Layers pane with both folders open.  At right above, we have closed the upper, Misc Places folder.

 

 

In the illustration at left above, we have entered po into the filter box  The Layers pane now shows only those layers or folders that have the two letters p and o in sequence together.  It will also show any folders that contain a layer or subfolder with po in the name, even if that higher folder itself does not have po in the name.   

 

The Filter box will not expand any folders that are collapsed.   In the illustration at left above the Transportation folder was open before we entered text into the Filter box, and the Misc Places folder was closed.   In the illustration at right above we have expanded the Misc Places folder, to see the layers it contains which match the pattern in the Filter box.

Background in a Map

We usually use the Background layer with map windows.  The background color is a property of a map and, once set, will persist even if the map window is closed.

 

 

Consider a map with two layers as seen above, a Cities layer of points and a Regions layer that is a drawing of regions as areas.   By default the Layers pane uses white color for the background.

 

 

We can change the background color to a different color by double-clicking into the background color well and changing the color to any desired, such as the light green color seen above.

 

 

Clicking the on/off box for the Background layer turns off background color, showing the default checkerboard pattern that indicates transparency.

 

 Normally we can choose transparent color in a color well, such as used for Style.  The color well for Background in the Layers pane is an exception: if we choose transparent color for the well, whatever was the prior color remains, and instead the on/off check box switches to off, turning off the Background layer.

Background in Drawings

Each individual component, other than maps, can have its background color temporarily set to some color different than the default by opening the component in a window and setting background color in the Layers pane.   The background color specified for a component window applies for the duration the component is open in its own window.  If we close the window and open it again, the background color is again reset to white.   To make the background color persist, use a map window, which we can create from the drawing window using Edit - Save as Map.

 

 

For example, we can double-click open in its own drawing window the Regions drawing used as a layer in the example map earlier in this topic.  The Layers pane shows one layer for a drawing window until other layers are added to the window. The background color by default is white.

 

 

Just as with a map, clicking the on/off box for the Background layer turns off background color, showing the default checkerboard pattern that indicates transparency.

 

 

We can double-click into the background color well to change the background color for the drawing to a blue color as seen above.   Changing the color for a drawing's background is a temporary measure that will apply only when that drawing is opened in its own window and only for as long as that window is open.   It will not apply if the drawing is used as a layer in a map and will not be saved with the drawing.   Only background colors specified for maps are saved with the map.

 

 

we can open the Regions drawing in its own window at the same time that it is used as a layer in a map window.   With the focus on the map window, the Layers pane shows the background color specified for the map, a light green.   The blue color used as a background for the Regions drawing does not carry over into the map.  If we close the drawing window and reopen it again, the background color in the drawing window will again be white.

 

If we like a particular background color combination used in a drawing window, we can save it by choosing Edit - Save as Map.  That will save the drawing as a new map with that drawing as a layer and that background color as the background.

Z Order

The third dimension, height, in a coordinate system is usually called the Z axis, after the X and Y axes used for flat plotting.   By analogy, the GIS and programming term Z order means the vertical order in which layers or frames appear in the vertical stack shown in a map window or a layout, as well as the left-to-right order in which fields appear in a table.  Z order in Manifold maps, layouts and tables appears in the component's properties in easily human-readable form.

 

 

Consider the example map seen above, a map with two layers.  The Cities layer appears above the Regions layer in the Z order stack, as shown by the order of layer tabs in the map window and by the order of layers in the Layers pane.

 

 

In the Project pane, if we right-click on the Map component and choose Properties, we can launch the properties dialog.  We can see that Maps have Item properties for each layer that appears in a map, specifying information about each item in human readable JSON form.   The Z values specify the vertical order, with a Z of 0 indicating the top layer, a Z of 1 indicating the next layer from the top and so on.

 

 

 

Moving layers up and down in the display stack, either by dragging their tabs in the Map window, or by using the Move controls in the Layer pane, simply changes their Z order numbers in the Map's Item properties.   For example, suppose we move the Regions layer above the Cities layer, as seen in the illustrations above.

 

 

That changes the Z order numbers in the Properties for Item.1 and Item.0.   The Cities item now has a Z value of 1 in the JSON property string, indicating it comes second in display order, lower than the Regions layer with a Z value of 0.

 

 

If we like, we can manually edit properties for the Map to change the Z values back so the Regions layer has a Z value of 1 and the Cities layer has a Z value of 0.   We press OK to apply the change.

 

 

Instantly, the Map window and Layers pane update to the new Z order.

 

 

As with all properties in Manifold, the various Item properties for Maps, Layouts, and Tables can be seen in the mfd_meta System Data table.   We have selected the two properties of interest in our example in the illustration above to make them more obvious.  

 

Tables in default configuration, before we change default order of fields or default sizes of fields, will not have Item properties.  Those will automatically appear when we first make a change to default order or field size.  

 

If for any reason a layer in a map, a frame in a layout, or a field in a table has a missing or invalid Z order number, that item will appear at the bottom of the display stack.

Visual Effects

Changing the background color can dramatically change the appearance of a window.   The following three illustrations below show the effects of changing only the background color from the default white, to black to green.

 

 

It is important to consider background color when using Style to choose colors for objects in drawings.   In the illustrations above a white background hides the yellow road lines while a black background hides the black line used for a railroad.  The formatting shown above was intended for use with a green background color, and not with white or black background.   It is obviously a bad idea to use the same background color as used by objects in a map.  See more examples in the Example: How Not to Format a Drawing  topic.

 

Besides the practical aspect of not using a background color that is the same as a color used for objects in a drawing, the choice of background color can have a big aesthetic effect.  The background color set by the Layers pane can dramatically change the look and feel of a visual display, as seen below where different formatting using the Style pane is combined with different choices of background color in the Layers pane.  

 

The objects in all four examples below are exactly the same: only the Style and background colors have changed.

 

Always On, Non-Modal Panes

Most software, including Manifold, makes extensive use of dialogs that are modal.   A modal dialog grabs the user interface so we must complete our work with the dialog, usually by clicking an OK, Cancel, or some other button, before we can continue working with other parts of the program.   The term modal comes from the dialog's insistence that whatever user interface mode the dialog applies is the only one that is active.

 

A non-modal or modeless pane is one which does not grab exclusive use of the user interface.    The Project pane, the Layers pane, and the Contents pane collection of panes are non-modal.  We can have the Project pane open to show us a list of what is in the project even as we continue work with other dialogs.   Display-only non-modal panes like the Project pane are fairly common in software, but in addition Manifold provides the exceptional ability to control the system using sophisticated, display + command, controls within the Layers pane and within an array of very powerful non-modal panes in the Contents pane.   

 

When we call up a pane that pane is non-modal:  it is always on, ready to display information or to accept a command with no need to enter or exit a dialog, and without locking up the rest of the program.   We can move the mouse away from the pane into a different window, perhaps to pan or to zoom that window, or even into a modal dialog, to continue working however we like and the panes will automatically adjust to what we are doing.   We can go back and forth between panes and other windows, panes, dialogs and other controls without any need to exit or to close the Project pane, Layers pane or Contents pane.   

Closing and Opening Panes

Most Manifold users will not close panes, but will just move them out of the way if not needed, perhaps in a stack behind other panes that are used more frequently.   But if we like, we can close and open panes.

 

 

 

Notes

Read-only data - The Layers pane recognizes when the data it displays is read-only, and disables controls and commands that cannot be used with read-only data. Temporary layouts and temporary maps are always writable. Tables and queries always appear writable with changes to tables on read-only data sources being kept in the window and being discarded after the window is closed.

 

Widths in printer's points - Why are the widths of columns in tables specified in printer's points as a unit of measure?  Tables display text in fonts that are specified in printer's points, with displays and printouts normally scaling to show those fonts in reasonably accurate real-world sizes.   Setting the width of columns using the same units of measure allows table column sizes to scale the same way as the fonts they contain.

 

Folders only with consecutive layers - In the Layers pane, all layers within a folder are consecutive layers.   Using consecutive layers as part of a folder repeats a familiar metaphor, as used in outlines, to group together layers under a folder in a simple, clear, easily-understood interface.

 

Selecting layers follows folder hierarchy - Selecting or deselecting a folder also selects or deselects everything within that folder, including all layers and subfolders.   Deselecting a layer or a subfolder within a folder hierarchy, deselects all folders above it in the hierarchy.  That follows the rule that if a folder is selected, all of the layers and subfolders are selected as well.

 

Moving layers follows folder hierarchy -  Moved layers using move up/down commands in the Layers pane never change their folder level, and layers never move between folders as a result of move up/down commands.

 

Grouping layers in the Layers pane preserves folder selection - Actions that attempt to create folders with a selected parent and unselected children are denied.

 

Missing or Invalid Z Order - Table fields, layout frames, and map layers with invalid or missing Z order info are placed last in the display stack (at the bottom).

 

No redundant layers - A given layer can appear just once in a map.   For example, a drawing of roads can appear only once as a layer in a map.  We cannot have a map that has two layer tabs that both refer to the same roads drawing.   It is possible using programming or by manually changing a map's properties to add two layers to a map that both refer to the same roads drawing.  However, in that case only one layer tab will appear in the map window.   Both "roads" layers will appear in the Layers pane but only the first, upper layer will be valid and will be usable.   Any additional layers referring to the same roads drawing will be invalid and will not be usable. The invalid layers will appear in the Layers pane so we can select them and delete them, a useful way of cleaning up programming errors.

Videos

Manifold Future - Future Tour Part 1 - This video shows how to download and use a portable installation for Manifold Future.  The video also shows the Layers pane, layers and layer opacity, one click use of data source favorites, using your own archival favorite and getting record values instantly.  If you are using Viewer or Radian Studio, download and use the Future version to get access to all these powerful new features.

See Also

Getting Started

 

Folders in the Layers Pane

 

Layers Pane and Tables

 

Layers Pane and Layouts

 

User Interface Basics

 

Maps

 

Drawings

 

Images

 

Labels

 

Selection

 

Layer Opacity

 

Style

 

Info Pane

 

Style Pane

 

Topology Overlays

 

Example: Layers Tutorial - We take a tour of the Layers pane, learning how to manage layer display order, select layers, turn several layers on and off at the same time, alter opacity settings for one or more layers and how to change background color.

 

Example: Style Pane Quickstart - A tutorial introduction to using the Style pane to apply color, symbology, size and rotation to areas, lines and points in drawings.

 

Example: Create Maps - Maps are used to show layers that can be drawings, images, and labels.  This topic shows how to create new, blank maps, how to create maps from existing components, and how to create maps from other maps.

 

Example: How Not to Format a Drawing - When using Style to format a drawing it is a really bad idea to use the same color for objects that is used for the background color.   It can also be a bad idea to use transparent color for objects.   This topic illustrates why.